(PRWEB) January 24, 2013
The Lucy Burns Institute, sponsor of Ballotpedia.org and Judgepedia.org, has released a new publication titled "Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with clipboards, conversations, and campaigns." The guide, written by Lucy Burns Institute President Leslie Graves, provides an overview of how individuals can use the ballot initiative process at the local level.
A local ballot initiative is a form of direct democracy. It is a procedure by which local voters directly propose laws. It bypasses the governing body of the local unit of government - whether that is a county, city, village or other local unit of government - by directly voting on the proposed law at the ballot box. Although only 24 states allow statewide initiative and referendum, every state except Indiana and Wyoming has some cities that allow ballot initiatives to decide city issues and laws.
Graves explained her motivation for writing the booklet: "people across the country are frustrated with public officials, and they have access to more avenues for change than they may be aware of, the local ballot initiative being one example. This guide is our attempt to promote awareness of the existence of this tool and allow citizens to become more engaged in the democratic process."
The case of Glenn Vodhanel, who initiated a successful 2012 local ballot measure in Brea, CA, highlights the value of the local initiative. Frustrated with the salary of the City Manager in Brea, Vodhanel and other citizens talked with local government officials about improving government transparency and efficiency. When Vodhanel felt as if he'd hit a dead end using that method, he learned about a ballot measure in a nearby city and decided to pursue that route. Together with a group of local citizens, Vodhanel collected enough signatures on petitions to place two reform measures on the November 2012 ballot. One measure set forth new provisions ensuring local government transparency, and the other set a cap on salaries for certain city officials. Reflecting back on his efforts, Vodhanel said, "the thing I learned years and years ago is that local government is probably the easiest to have an impact on."
Paul Jacob, president of Citizens in Charge, explains "you can make a big difference nationally by acting locally. Most cities have a citizen initiative process allowing any serious individual to organize people to petition a needed reform on the ballot for a vote. If the voters agree, you've changed your town and the world. That's why they call it "direct democracy". This guide breaks down a complicated process and provides clear explanations for each step. It's an essential resource for anyone who is interested in local ballot initiatives or local government reform."
The guide is available for free download on-line, or by e-mailing Lauren Warden Rodgers at Lauren(dot)Rodgers(at)lucyburns(dot)org.
About the Lucy Burns Institute
The Lucy Burns Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. It hosts two websites: Ballotpedia.org and Judgepedia.org. At Lucy Burns, we believe in the power of information to transform lives and politics, and we’re committed to making the most knowledge available to the greatest number of people. With the help of volunteer editors the quality and depth of the information on our wikis improves every day. We are a community of users dedicated to fairness and openness in politics, on both sides of the aisle. We welcome responsible, knowledge-building contributions from anyone who wants to participate.
If you'd like more information, or to schedule an interview with the author, please contact Lauren Warden Rodgers at lauren(dot)rodgers(at)lucyburns(dot)org.